Artist Feature: Drummer Chad Taylor

In February, I had the opportunity to sit down with Chad Taylor and discuss his recent solo record release and his duo record with saxophonist James Brandon Lewis as well as the many bands and records he has been a part of throughout his prolific career.

Cisco Bradley: Chad, it’s wonderful to have you here. What do you see as your definitive musical experiences growing up and how did you get on to the path that you are on?  I know it’s a big question.

Chad Taylor: My father actually wanted to be a professional concert pianist. He studied in Frankfurt at a conservatory via the Army. He had plans to attend Juilliard but he was unexpectedly transferred to Alaska. He was furious and was like, “Okay, I’m done with music.” He became an engineer but music was always and still is, his passion.

My parents did this thing where they predetermined what we were going to do with our lives. My sister was supposed to be the musician and I was supposed to be a doctor, attorney, or something like that. My dad was a bit of a workaholic. The little free time my dad had he spent with my sister playing the piano. I got really jealous and I said, “Okay, I’m going to do music too.” So I decided I was going to play the guitar and my parents were like, “Okay. Sure, Chad, you can get a guitar.”

I got serious about the guitar and started studying basic guitar repertoire. Then I got into classical music because my dad was classical musician and I stuck with that until I was 19. When I first got into music school I was a classical guitar major.

Now, I was doing jazz, but for me jazz was just more of a hobby. My real passion was classical music.

At Milikin University we had to do these recitals every other month and play in front of the faculty/ peers. I just froze up one time. I just couldn’t play. I had the music memorized but I couldn’t play. I had a nervous breakdown, if you can call it that. I stopped going to all my classes. All I would do was go to the library and listen to jazz records.

And I heard this… the first Air record by Henry Threadgill, Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall and I was like, “Okay, that’s it.” I heard a musical integrity in that music that really had a profound effect on me. I said to myself “ I’m done with the guitar. This is the direction I want to go now. I’m going to get serious with the drums.” I applied for The New School like the next day and then next year I moved to New York.

Cisco Bradley:  Wow. So you hadn’t played drums before?

Chad Taylor: No. I was playing. I started playing jazz drums when I was 14.

Cisco Bradley: Ah, okay.

Chad Taylor: In high school I met a bass player named Matthew Lux. And he’s one of these guys… a sort of a fixture in the Chicago scene. He’s one of these guys who is a walking encyclopedia about music.

We became friends and right away he asked, “What kind of music are you listening to?” and I was like, “Well, I listen to a lot of classical music.” and he thought that was cool. He’s like “What else?” I was listening to like Kenny G or something like that and he was like, “No, no, no, no.” He’s like “we got to start from scratch.” He introduced me to so much music. Miles, Ornette, ‘Trane, Art Ensemble of Chicago. This guy was only 14 years old but knew what was up.

Then he convinced me to start going to a jazz program after school, this place called the Bloom School of Jazz. We did that together.

Cisco Bradley: This is in Chicago?

Chad Taylor: Yeah, in Chicago. I started performing right away because I met a bass player named Dennis Carroll who started mentoring me and hooking me up with gigs.. I actually played my first gig with Rob Mazurek when I was 14 or 15 playing standards at a club called Sheffields. I learned how to play jazz on the bandstand and I got my ass kicked constantly.

Cisco Bradley: You’re originally from Arizona?

Chad Taylor: Yeah. From Tempe, AZ. I moved to Chicago when I was 10. My parents split up and my mom just decided that of Chicago was where she wanted to go, even though she had no friends family or work there.  She just had a good feeling about Chicago. But moving to Chicago was a huge culture shock. Where I was living in Tempe, we lived in this small community and I didn’t know any black people at all besides my family. For like 10 years I did not see any black people, you know?

And so I went from there to the inner city of Chicago, right to the inner city and that was something.

Cisco Bradley: Was this transformational?

Chad Taylor: Well, the first day I got there, you know, movers came and my mom was like, “Okay, why don’t you go out and play.”

I wasn’t too far from the Cabrini-Green Projects. This kid came up to me (like 5 years old). I had a ball. He comes up to me like, “give me that ball.” and I was like, “No. I’m not giving you this ball. This is my ball.” It happens again and I said, “No!” He comes up like BOOOM! He’s 5 years old. He whacks me across the face.  I go down and he takes the ball. I was like, okay, this is not Arizona anymore. This is another situation.

Cisco Bradley: Being around Black culture, were you sort of connecting with music in a different way?

Chad Taylor: Yeah.  I mean for me part of getting into jazz music was a way to discover my culture and history.  All the music stuff I did was after school.

Cisco Bradley: So it was private lessons?

Chad Taylor: I pretty much lived at the Bloom School of Jazz. After about a year David Bloom let me go to the classes without paying. He really supported me. He let me go to all sort of classes and just hang out there, practice, listen to records, and stuff. My day didn’t really start until after high school.

Cisco Bradley: So you were going there when you were 15 or something? So it was like sort of absorbing other players, absorbing the music, hearing all sorts of stuff? Were you going out to clubs?

Chad Taylor: Yeah. Yeah.

Cisco Bradley: By yourself or…

Chad Taylor: With friends. There was a club right around the corner from where I live called The Underground Wonder Bar. It’s still there actually. And I used to go hear Bobby Broom, the guitar player, play with Dennis Carroll and a drummer named George Fludas. It was called the Big Deal Trio. It was amazing. But I also went to the HotHouse and hear more avant-garde type of stuff with AACM bands. 

The band I remember checking out the most was a band called New Horizons which was run by Ernest Dawkins and Avreeayl Ra was playing drums. Right around that time there was a guitar player who came from Boston named Jeff Parker and he started playing with New Horizon. This was around 1994.

Cisco Bradley: So I was trying to think of all the music that must have been surrounding you at that time. You’re clearly talking about seeking out jazz at this moment. Were you ever a part of AACM? 

Chad Taylor: No.. I’m definitely not officially a member of the AACM by no means, but I’ve performed on quite a few concerts. Big concerts like the anniversary concert in Paris. I’ve also played in bands with a lot off AACM members like Fred Anderson, Roscoe Mitchell, Malachi Favors, Fred Hophins, Nicole Mitchell and Matana Roberts.

Cisco Bradley: What was it like transitioning to New York?

Chad Taylor: It was overwhelming, almost like going from Arizona to Chicago. I was 18, 19 years old. I think part of the reason I had some trouble in school was because there’s all these distractions – or whatever you want to call them. Then the other problem I had was there were all these great musicians who I knew on record, who I wanted to study with, and I realized that they’re not necessarily good teachers, you know? So that was sort of a let down.

Cisco Bradley: Yeah. I can’t imagine doing undergraduate in New York. There’s just so much happening.

Chad Taylor: But, you know, the thing is it was serious all the talent that was at the school when I was there. Avishai Cohen was there. Peter Bernstein was there. Brad Mehldau was there. Roy Hargrove was there.

I mean it was like…

Cisco Bradley: The cats right there.

Chad Taylor: It was quite a scene. Ali Jackson was there. And it was in the old building before they moved. Arnie Lawrence, the founder, was there still.

Cisco Bradley: You said you were seeking out certain teachers. What were the experiences that worked for you or rather experiences that didn’t work but somehow you learned something from?

Chad Taylor: A good example that is Joe Chambers. The funny thing about Joe is that I studied with him for a couple years at The New School but I thought he was an awful teacher. But the older I get I keep on going back at these little things he said that make me think he really was a amazing teacher. I just wasn’t ready to get the knowledge that he had to share, you know?

He was also a really good history teacher ’cause he would talk about the Blue Note sessions that he did. One of the things he said to me was, “well, you know, we didn’t think that (much of those recordings) at the time. We thought they sounded like shit.” I was like, “What?! What are you talking about Joe?” And he’s like, “Yeah.” The lesson there is you want to get your playing to a level where when you have a bad day in the studio, it still sounds amazing.  

Reggie Workman was a really good teacher. He really pushed more experimental music.  Arnie Lawrence was also a really good teacher. I also studied there with Michele Rosewoman, Billy Harper, Charlie Persip, Chico Hamilton, Lewis Nash, and Pheeroan AkLaff

Cisco Bradley: In the beginning, were there drummers that you felt like you were… I don’t know what to say, like…

Chad Taylor: An inspiration? Yeah. I was a big fan of Ed Blackwell and Steve McCall for sure. I was always into underrated drummers that don’t get a lot of attention, Jerome Cooper and Clifford Jarvis, Buzz Freeman too. So many, man.

Cisco Bradley: How did you go from studying up in New School to then getting out there and playing? Or I suppose those maybe were happening as you were doing that?

Chad Taylor: A little bit. I mean a lot of it had to do with the ’90s, what was happening in Chicago. It was a really sort of unusual time … looking back. I didn’t realize this when I was there.

Cisco Bradley: Unusual about what exactly?

Chad Taylor: Well, what was going on was first you had bands like Tortoise. They really helped propel people notice Chicago in the indie rock scene.

But at that time there was all these collaborations happening between different people and it crossed genres very naturally. It wasn’t a forced thing. There’s that.

You were able to make a living selling records, and people were buying them. You could do pretty well, along with touring of course.

So basically, Rob [Mazurek], Jeff Parker, and I started Chicago Underground. Well first Rob started Chicago Underground Orchestra and then…

Cisco Bradley: About 1996-7?

Chad Taylor: Well, that’s when we put out our first release. It started before that. I forget which year that started. I’m going to have to look back and figure that out.

We got signed to Thrill Jockey, which was great and at that same time I found out that the band Stereolab… you know that band?

Cisco Bradley: Yes.

Chad Taylor: So they used a sample of me and didn’t credit me for it so I was like, “oh, man, that’s not cool.” So I confronted them about it and they were like, “okay. Well, you know what, we’re sorry. Why don’t you open up for us? Why don’t you tour with us?”

We did that quite a few times all across the US. So we were playing in front of, you know 500 people or more plus we were selling a lot of records.

You just don’t do that playing avant-garde music. That doesn’t happen. I mean those first several records we did, they sold over 10,000 copies and in the avant-garde world that’s like platinum. So, yeah, that was an unusual time.

So we were doing that thing with a whole other side of it. Chicago was a totally different environment.

Cisco Bradley: Yeah. Things were really happening and clicking.

Chad Taylor: I was also playing regularly with Fred Anderson at the Velvet Lounge, which was another experience. Around that time I met Matana Roberts. Eventually we started this group with Josh Abrams, Stick and Stones. I was also doing pop music with Sam Prekop. 

Cisco Bradley: Can you talk about the Underground Duo a little bit more?

Chad Taylor: Sure. We had a rehearsal for the trio and the bass player didn’t show up. Noel Kupersmith just didn’t show. So we were like why don’t we just play anyway? And that was the start of the duo.

Cisco Bradley: You guys put out like what, seven records? It’s one of your longest standing projects so I’m curious as to how you feel like your vocabulary has evolved over time.

Chad Taylor: In the beginning it was all acoustic and later Rob started getting more involved in electronic music and wanted to bring that into the duo. I was against it. I didn’t want to do any electronics.

Cisco Bradley: Is that an aesthetic level?

Chad Taylor: Yeah. I wasn’t comfortable playing with electronics and didn’t like the way it sounded. I just wasn’t into it. But he kept on pushing it and pushing it and eventually I was like, “Okay, let’s try it.” and I got really into it. So then that became part of our sound.

I guess the aesthetic that we’ve always been going for is we are combining all these different elements so that it’s not just one thing.

It goes back to the whole idea of like “what is jazz? Is it a genre of music or is it a process?” and for us it always has been a process of we’re going to take these different elements, mix them together and create this thing and hopefully people will like it, you know? Or maybe they won’t but this is what we’re just going to present and see how people react. 

Cisco Bradley: How did people react?

Chad Taylor: Very well. I mean there was a time when you could tour in the United States and make some money. Now, we really only play in Europe because that’s the only place we can make a living..

Cisco Bradley: What changed in the US?

Chad Taylor: People stopped buying records. That’s one thing. The labels, there’s no tour support anymore. People don’t come out to shows because they can see everything on youtube.

Cisco Bradley: It strikes me that you guys really broke some ground with the electronics.

Chad Taylor: I don’t know if we broke ground but there was a time when people were really looking at what was going on in Chicago during the late ’90s. We did some things and happen to be at the right place at the right time. People were checking it out.

Cisco Bradley: So that duo has clearly survived, like you moved elsewhere. Is most of the duo music improvised or is it…

Chad Taylor: It’s a mixture of stuff. I mean that’s part of what. We like to combine compositions with pure improvisation.

And the process for us is we go in, we try to get at least a full day, sometimes even two days, of just playing. From that point we take that material and then spend another two days in the studio reworking it, post-production if you want to call it that.

Which is why like some people will get upset and confused with our music.  “Is this jazz or…”.

We use the recording studio as an instrument. It’s not just this thing to record the music. Our approach is similar to  what Miles [Davis] was doing in the 70’s.

Cisco Bradley: You mentioned Sticks and Stones. Can you talk about that? I’ve heard Matana play quite a few times. I think I’ve heard Josh [Abrams] just a couple times but I really like his work.

Chad Taylor: Have you ever heard the band he did called Town & Country? That was a great, unusual group that a lot of people don’t know about. I think they went under the radar. But that was one of my favorite groups that he did.

Cisco Bradley: I suppose you guys were just playing the same scene, you kind of heard each other and wanted to bring the band together?

Chad Taylor: Yeah, with Sticks & Stones we were the house band at the Velvet Lounge. This was back in ’97. We decided to form a band. I really enjoyed that band.

Being in a band, that’s the thing that I’ve always been into, but it’s not always a good thing. It’s hard to be in a band and keep it going, you know? These days everyone/ everything is focused on the individual.

It was hard to keep that band alive. But, yeah, it was great playing with Matana and Josh.

Cisco Bradley: You’ve done some work with Cooper-Moore. Can you talk about Cooper-Moore as a collaborator? 

Chad Taylor: I’ve had a few musicians that I really think of as mentors. Cooper-Moore is one of them. Fred Anderson was another one.

So  with Cooper-Moore, there’s bass player named Tom Abbs. So me and him, we used to play a lot together. He had the idea of this approaching Cooper-Moore and just say, “Hey, would you be in playing with us?” I was like, “Alright. I’d love to play with Cooper-Moore. If you’re willing to—“ I was sort of scared at Cooper-Moore at that time. I mean, actually  approach him. I was like if you’re willing to ask him I’m down. So he said yes and we did a session.

So after the session was done, we sort of hung out and Cooper-Moore comes over to me, says, “Yeah, Chad, I was asking about you. I heard you’re a really good listener with the music” and I was like wow, that’s such a great compliment. “Oh, thank you Cooper-Moore.” He said, “That’s not a compliment.” and so… my mind was just blown after that. I was like, “What, that’s not a compliment? What do you mean?”

So it took me a long time to figure out what he meant by that and then…

Cisco Bradley: Do you have an idea?

Chad Taylor: So at that time… my playing wasn’t the bulk enough where I had enough of my own ideas so a lot of what I was doing in an  improvisational situation was reacting. So someone would do something and I would react after them or, you know, punctuate or whatever or however you want to say it. But I didn’t play that many of my own ideas for people to react to.

But, yeah, I learned a lot from Cooper-Moore. He was sort of my finishing school as an improviser. He’s an incredible person and musician.

Cisco Bradley: Digital Primitives. You were working well with Cooper and…

Chad Taylor: Well, what happened was there was a band with Assif Tsahar, Cooper-Moore and Hamid Drake and I think Hamid just got super busy and couldn’t do some gigs or tours so they asked me to take his place. And that evolved into Digital Primitives.

Cisco Bradley: Can you talk about the sound of the band?

Chad Taylor: There are a lot of different things happening with that band. One of the things is just playing at a type of energy level for long periods of time. But we also play a lot of just songs, simple songs, almost like pop songs. I play the M’bira in that band too sometimes. Cooper-Moore is one of the few musicians who has gotten me to sing. We have a couple songs where I sing too.

Cisco Bradley: You were talking about Triptych Myth. You’re talking about working out ideas. Can you give like a really like solid, like clear example of the types of process you go through?

Chad Taylor: Yeah. So one thing we used to practice is everyone being independent of one another but at the same time being in the same space. So we count of a tempo [making sound] but nobody would play the tempo. Everyone would be in a completely different tempo but we’d all be hearing the same tempo in our head. So that creates a real independence but yet it’s together because we’re all hearing the same tempo.

Cisco Bradley: So that central one or maybe it’s not the central but the one that everyone’s hearing would somehow grab like somehow giving it cohesion?

Chad Taylor: Yeah. Just the fact that we were all hearing that tempo in our head would give it cohesion.  The fact that we had that tempo in our head would create this cohesion.

Cisco Bradley: You’ve done an incredible amount of records working as a sideman with all sorts of different bands.

Chad Taylor: Mm-hmmm.

Cisco Bradley: The stuff that stands out within that I think has been transformation for you and how you operate as a musician or that somehow pushed you in another direction as a player or challenged you maybe somehow.

There are some other recent bands that you are a leader or collaborator that we haven’t talked about.

You had a trio with Chris Lightcap and Angelica Sanchez, right, Circle Down?

Chad Taylor: So I’ve known Chris Lightcap for quite a long time. I don’t think he went to The New School, but he was definitely around the scene and we always wanted to play together. And Angie, I think  I first started playing with her with Tony Malaby and we connected musically right away. I was like we should work together.

In the beginning there wasn’t a bandleader and somebody needed to take it over to keep the thing going so I decided to do it. I wasn’t very successful at it. It’s hard being a bandleader. I mean it’s not hard to write the music or come up with the ideas but I’m not good at the business, getting gigs and tours. So it was hard for me. I feel bad ’cause that was a really good band but I just haven’t been able to keep the momentum going.

Cisco Bradley: Well, there’s a lot of hustling involved. It must be exhausting. I’m always amazed at people, especially elders in the music. I think of like William Parker who is just like out there hustling like he’s 20 years old. He’s still doing that.

Chad Taylor: It takes a certain personality too, I think.

Cisco Bradley: True. I think your most recent project that I’m aware is your duo with James Brandon Lewis.

Chad Taylor: Yeah. We’ve been doing that for almost three years. I remember one of the first times we played was at your series. That was a lot of fun.

I’m always drawn to musicians who have their own sound or their own approach And, for me, James definitely has a thing that he’s developing that’s very interesting to play with. There’s a rhythmic thing he’s doing with his playing that’s very unusual. I’m sure there’s a lot of saxophone players who have a strong rhythmic concept. Steve Coleman obviously is probably the one that comes to mind, you know?

Cisco Bradley: Are there other bands you’re involved with as a leader or collaborator at the present?

Chad Taylor: Well, I got a solo record that’s coming out, solo drums. That’s coming out in May.

Cisco Bradley: Can you talk about some of the concepts you put into that?

Chad Taylor: Yeah. I’ve always wanted to do a solo record but I’ve always been scared because there’s so many great solo records that drummers have done and I wanted to have sort of my own approach to it, So it’s taking me a long time to just get the courage to do it.

I use a delayed pedal that I hook up to my M’bira and I use that as a way of having a foundation to play off of. I don’t want to get too into it but that’s sort of where it’s coming from.

Cisco Bradley: Is the solo record another… I don’t know how to say… like a…

Chad Taylor: Another genre of music?

Cisco Bradley: Yeah.

Chad Taylor: Yeah. And there’s so many incredible…

Cisco Bradley: Yeah. One of my favorite solo anything records is the one Jerome Cooper did. And also Milford Graves. All of his solo stuff is just amazing.

Chad Taylor: There are so many great solo recordings. It’s scary. You don’t have anywhere to hide. You’re out there. You can’t make a mistake or you feel uncomfortable or whatever. You just have to deal with it.

Cisco Bradley: There’s no cover. There’s no one else to fill the space or to bounce off of, whatever.

Chad Taylor: Yeah. If you stop, the song is over. That’s it.

Cisco Bradley: In terms of your sideman stuff, what about live records? Does something different happen when it’s live?

Chad Taylor: It can for sure. It’s a different type of energy.

But if I could just talk about Fred…

Cisco Bradley: Please do!

Chad Taylor: What’s really amazing about his playing is that there’s a certain freedom that he allows you to play what comes out of the music in its entirety.

When you start a tune in his ensemble he’ll just play out front. And what’s amazing is that at any tempo that you, a drummer, start to tune in it works. Any tempo we play it works because his timing is that strong. That gives you all this freedom, but it’s also a lot of responsibility too, in knowing that the tempo could change at any time.

Yeah, I learned a lot playing with Fred.

I feel like rhythm, time and pulse are things people have a hard time articulating about in jazz music.  Monk’s time was so good that even when he played rubato it feels like its in time. Birds time was impeccable.

Cisco Bradley: Wow! What about David Lord, the guitarist out of Kansas?

Chad Taylor: There’s a record that’s going to be coming out with him. I think that’s in the spring. That record is going to turn some heads.

Cisco Bradley: Underground Kansas scene that we all don’t know about.

Chad Taylor: Yeah. Like wow, man. Yeah, he’s a really talented musician. He has his on system for improvisation similar to a lot of AACM musicians. His system is fully developed.

Cisco Bradley: What about the quartet with Eric Revis?

Chad Taylor: I don’t know if we’re doing another record anytime soon but I think we’re doing some dates.  That’ll be fun. I really enjoy that band a lot. I really enjoy playing with Kris Davis too.

Cisco Bradley: I haven’t had the opportunity to hear Nicole Mitchell‘s Sonic Projection. I think they only played once (each of those records), right?

Chad Taylor: Yeah. That was a great band with Craig Taborn too. Nicole, I can’t say enough great things about her. Everyone knows she’s a great musician. But as a human being, she’s inspirational and positive. I’ve known her for a long time and I’ve seen her in different situations and am just amazed at her integrity. She is always staying above any negative stuff that’s happening around her.

Cisco Bradley: I had the honor of interviewing her last April.

Chad Taylor: Oh, is that right?

Cisco Bradley: Yeah. She’s a leader of a certain kind, you know? Everyone I hear talks about her said she’s such an incredible person.

Chad Taylor: Here’s a funny story. One of the first times I played with her (this is sort of my introduction into the AACM) there was a band that David Boykin called the Outet. Josh Abrams played bass, Nicole, David, I forget who else was there. I feel like there was one other person in the band.

Anyway, we’re doing a rehearsal. At this time I was at The New School studying. But this was in Chicago, summer break or something. We’re in rehearsal and I’m looking at this music that either Nicole or David wrote and I’m like… it just doesn’t really make any sense. The lines didn’t work together. Why are there too many beats in this measure, but not enough beats in this measure?

So I’m explaining it to Nicole and David and they’re just looking at me like I’m crazy. They’re just like “it’s going to work, don’t worry”. I’m like, “no, it can’t work. It’s impossible”. And they’re just like “no, it’s going to line up”. I was like “okay, go ahead and try”. We play it, it lines up perfectly. I was like “okay, well this is unbelievable . This is something else”.

That’s sort of my introduction into a whole other level of music making.

Cisco Bradley: Talk about your approach to the drums. I know it’s a really big question.

Chad Taylor: That’s sort of a hard question for me to answer.

But I’ll tell you this, Cisco, when I feel like I’ve had a successful gig or a successful concert or even a successful solo, it’s when I’ve done something that I’ve never done before…

For me, that’s what really being a creative musician is. The goal is to really reach out and do things creatively.

I don’t like to get too comfortable. I feel like I learn that from Cooper-Moore. There are a lot of musicians playing avant-garde/ experimental music who do the same thing over and over again. They  give the same space over and over again. And for me, that doesn’t work. I need to be in a place where I’m pushing myself to do some other type of things. I think my playing is learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Cisco Bradley: Everybody may say you have your own approach/ sound on drums. And part of what they’re talking about is that you’ve established a certain body of work and you can bring a certain approach when someone is thinking of hiring you for their trio or something and actually have those sounds in mind.

Chad Taylor: Yeah. I don’t know how to articulate what that approach is, but I’m sure over the years I have something that is an approach. I don’t know what it is.

Cisco Bradley: I was thinking about something you said at the beginning. You talked about playing guitar at that one recital then locked up and you couldn’t keep going. Then you started listening to jazz. Was there a liberating/ therapeutic moment?

Chad Taylor: There was. You know part of the issue is when I was studying classical music there were a lot of liberties that I wanted to take with the music, but I wasn’t allowed. “That’s not how it’s written/ this is the way you’re supposed to do”.

And I joke with [Marc] Ribot about this all the time, that if I had heard him during that era I would have never continued with the drum.

Have you seen Ribot play solo? A lot of times he’ll go into this classical repertoire, ’cause he studied quite a bit of classical music, and it’s just continually open. I remember when I first heard him I was like what, “you can do that”? I had no idea that that was even an option, you know?

Cisco Bradley: You said you have to improvise your life? It’s just like a way of living?

Chad Taylor: Yeah, it’s a way of living. You don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the day and whatever happens you got to figure it out.

You have to be willing to fail too. There’s a type of improvising where you can’t really fail, you know? There’s a type of music where you can’t… you have to put yourself in a position where you might be a complete disaster. You might get stuff thrown at you. But if you put yourself in that vulnerability you also might take the music to a completely different level.

Sometimes you got to let the music fall apart too and see what comes out from under that.

Cisco Bradley: Can you think of a moment where you “failed” or where you took some major risk and…

Chad Taylor: Well, I mean it happens all the time. The way this music works, you can feel like you failed and then other people will say, “Oh, that’s the greatest gig I ever heard”.

And vice versa. You can think “oh, wow, we really did it tonight” and people are just like “oh, that sucks”, you know? 

I remember this one gig Rob and me were playing. It was a double bill with Hamid (Drake) and (Peter) Brotzmann. It was just one of those things. I don’t know if we were intimidated or what was, but we tried to do some different stuff and what actually happened on the bandstand… we felt that we failed. And then having to hear Hamid just clean up after us and Brotzmann too???

It’s like going back to what Joe Chambers said. “… we thought it sounded like shit”  I think the goal of a musician is to get to the level where even when you think you had a bad gig or recording it still sounds amazing to someone else.

But yeah, sometimes you have to be okay with that, you know? You can’t always have a great gig. If every gig you do is a great gig, then some thing is not right.

And depending on what type of improvising you do, if you just go with what only you know how to play, you might not reach that other level.

Cisco Bradley: Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts about your music with Jazz Right Now.

Place: Pratt Institute

Date: February 19, 2018

Cover Photo: Petra Cvelbar

Editor: Gabriel Jermiane Vanlandingham-Dunn

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